Should Vegans Have the Same Protections as Religious People? A 'Landmark' Case Will Decide
In the UK, it is unlawful for an employer to fire an employee based on their religion or belief. By the same token, is it ok for an employer to fire an employee if they are ethical vegans?
The question of whether vegans have the same anti-discrimination protections as religious people under UK law will be answered at an employment tribunal next March—the first case of its kind in Britain.
Jordi Casamitjana, 54, is an ethical vegan who claims he was dismissed in April by his former employer League Against Cruel Sports "after I blew the whistle that their pension fund was being invested in companies involved in animal testing," he wrote on his crowdfunding page.
"I am an Ethical Vegan who was dismissed by an Animal Welfare charity after I blew the whistle that their pension f… https://t.co/K2mpCRoflP— CrowdJustice (@CrowdJustice)1531312740.0
In response, the animal welfare charity told CNN it is a "vegan friendly employer." A spokesperson said that Casamitjana was fired for "gross misconduct," not for his dietary preferences.
"The discussion about veganism being a 'philosophical belief' is a thought-provoking one which many of our staff will be interested in—however this debate has absolutely no connection with why Mr. Casamitjana was sacked," the spokesperson added.
Vegans abstain from consuming animals and animal products, but there's a difference between those who do it for health reasons (dietary vegans), or those who do it for moral or environmental reasons.
"Some people only eat a vegan diet but they don't care about the environment or the animals, they only care about their health," Casamitjana, who has been an ethical vegan for 17 years, explained the BBC.
"I care about the animals and the environment and my health and everything," he added. "That's why I use this term 'ethical veganism' because for me veganism is a belief and affects every single aspect of my life."
Under UK law, veganism must adhere to the following points to qualify as a philosophical belief:
- Be genuinely held,
- Be a belief as to a weighty and substantial aspect of human life and behavior,
- Attain a certain level of cogency, seriousness, cohesion and importance,
- Be worthy of respect in a democratic society, not be incompatible with human dignity and not conflict with the fundamental rights of others,
- Be a belief, not an opinion or viewpoint based on the present state of information available
Casamitjana's law firm, Bindmans LLP, said in a press release it was "bringing a landmark case."
"If successful, the case will protect ethical vegans from discrimination on the grounds of their belief," the firm said.
LATEST NEWS: #Employment Tribunal to determine whether Ethical #Veganism is protected by #Discrimination Legislation https://t.co/rvBEchxwf7— Bindmans LLP (@Bindmans LLP)1543820426.0
Interestingly, Casamitjana's case has legs. When Quartz presented this question to three philosophers, they all agreed that veganism met the requirements of a philosophical belief and deserved the same legal protection as religion.
"I think it's a sounder belief than any of the religions," Peter Singer, utilitarian philosopher at Princeton University, told the publication. "I think veganism rests on a strong moral foundation. It's clearly a deep belief, it affects your life and the way you behave and outlook on the world, and I think should count as philosophical belief."
If the tribunal also agrees, the discrimination claim will proceed to a full trial, according to the BBC. Casamitjana's hearing is set for March 13 and 14.
There was similar case in the U.S., in which a court rejected the argument that veganism was merely an eating habit. In Chenzira v. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, a federal district court in Ohio found that the sincerely held belief of a vegan employee—who was fired for rejecting the flu vaccine because it was grown in chicken eggs—may support a religious discrimination claim and merited protection under the law. The case was ultimately settled out of court in 2013.
Why do people hate #vegans? Food Editor Resigns After Writing 'Killing Vegans' Comment @vegansociety… https://t.co/1iB6SiOJXm— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1541502131.0
By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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